Five Myths About Early Childhood Outdoor Environments

Outdoor play and the accompanying exercise are exceptionally important in an early learning environment. Children need Vitamin D to thrive and time developing their motor skills as they run around, jump and climb. Not all early childhood education centres facilitate outdoor learning to an effective degree, however. There are a handful of myths used to excuse such centres and these may disarm startled parents who want their children to play outdoors during their early childhood education. In this article we debunk five myths about early childhood outdoor environments to highlight the importance of outdoor play in preschool.

Myth #1 – Small Spaces Are Acceptable

Because infants are smaller than they will ever be in life, the myth that they need less space to exercise and enjoy the outdoors is sometimes purported. This is not true, however. Sure, infants are smaller than toddlers and can function with more mobility in smaller environments, but they still need large spaces to run around and play in. The larger an environment, the more sensory experiences are available to experience as students explore. Students in larger environments can develop accordingly.

Myth #2 Outdoor Spaces Should Only Contain Flat Surfaces

Because parents’ number one priority is keeping their children safe, the myth that outdoor spaces must only contain flat surfaces often holds sway in the design of outdoor spaces. Trips, bumps and falls are a natural part of growing up, and while should be avoided at all costs, are a valuable part of development. Learning to navigate uneven surfaces provides much-needed challenges and prompts muscle development in areas which are under stimulated in flat environments. Ramps, slopes, garden beds and other uneven surfaces in outdoor play areas are crucial.

Myth #3 Children Will Simply Bring Indoor Toys Outside So What’s The Point?

This is true. Outdoor play areas are often littered with toys children have brought out from inside. The fact remains, however, that imagining worlds in an outdoor setting is completely different from playing the same game inside. Plus, children have environmental features to work into their imaginary worlds. Sand, mud, sticks and grass can often form the foundation of imaginative play and enhance the creativity of children as they play.

Myth #4 Loose Toys Best Used By Older Children

Buckets, shovels, balls, quoits and a plethora of other loose toys may be considered more appropriate for use by older children. Though younger children’s motor skills are less developed, this is no excuse to deny them the chance to continually develop in this regard; by trial and error. 

Myth #5 They’ll Just Eat The Environment

We often worry that everything goes in the mouth with infants. This is true, yet we simply cannot neglect nature and outdoor environments in early childhood education. While flower petals, dirt and bugs may end up being tasted, with diligent supervision comes the experience children need to know not to eat every living thing they come into contact with. The tactile experience of the outdoors is extremely important as kids grow up and should not be denied at all costs.

At Robyn Taylor Early Childhood Centre, we incorporate a range of outdoor experiences to help children learn. We endorse large, diverse environments, imaginative and structured play as part of the Robyn Taylor Early Learning Method. If you would like to learn more about our outdoor teaching, book a tour of our education centre or enrol your child, please use our contact page to reach out to us or call on 02 9705 8309.